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A Few Photo Albums and Several Dozen Facebook Friends

Every year when December 31st rolls around, I can’t help but feel super sentimental. What a time to think back on the year you’ve had while setting goals and intentions for the next one. New Year’s Eve is a time to evaluate your growth, reminisce on great memories, and maybe cringe at a few of the moments you’d rather forget. It’s a time to enter a new chapter with resolve and purpose.

On this New Year’s Eve, like so many before, I’ve found myself looking back at the year’s highlights… by stalking my own social media. Judge me all you want, even though you probably do the exact same thing to check in on how the world views you and your life.

The truth is, social media, for all its flaws, is almost like having a living, breathing scrapbook of your own life. And it can be fun to look back and see all the highlights and small moments that colored the past 365 days.

When you think about the year in simple, social media terms, I like to break it down into this: a few photo albums and several dozen Facebook friends.

This year I documented some big moments, met some new people, and had a jolly good time. I posted pictures as a way to tell stories and share all the places I went and the things I got to do. I look through my friends list and see all the people I met this year. New coworkers, mutual acquaintances, or old friends that I got to reconnect with.

These relationships and perfectly preserved moments all changed me, in little ways or really big ones. I can look at a single photo and associate it with a rough evening or one of the best laughs I’ve had in years. I see a name pop up on my messenger app or right on my feed, and I can pinpoint a time that person helped me out when I needed it or let me vent as they offered a shoulder to cry on.

See, these photo albums and Facebook friends aren’t just ethereal things or pieces of internet code. They represent memories. They remind me of happy moments and opportunities for growth. They bring a tremendous amount of gratitude. So much gratitude that I’ve literally cried two or three times today because I just feel so thankful to be living this wild, unpredictable, and fulfilling life with the best people by my side.

A few photo albums and several dozen Facebook friends. I know, I know, it sounds like I’m singing the 2021 version of “Seasons of Love” from Rent. But it’s New Year’s Eve and dangit, I get to be a little cheesy.

Now, there is a glaring problem with my oversimplification of the past year being wrapped up in photo albums and Facebook friends: we all know social media is only half the story.

When I look back on my carefully cultivated Instagram feed or the purely happy persona I always share on Facebook, I’ll admit, there’s a hell of a lot you guys aren’t seeing.

My photo albums don’t include the pictures of me crying on my couch in the middle of an anxiety attack. You don’t see me eating fast food or takeout for the 3rd day in a row cause I didn’t have the time or energy to go grocery shopping. I’m not going to show you the upset text messages from people I may have offended or the drama I somehow got myself involved in. You don’t see the ruminating or the tears or the things that slipped through the cracks cause I got overwhelmed. That’s not a part of the narrative that I wanted you to see.

One of those moments that didn't make it on social media. This was taken about 20 min before a cute, little breakdown.

But they’re a part of my narrative nevertheless.

Even the chapters you’d rather not re-read or the photo albums you keep close to the chest are a part of your story. The friendships you made where trust ended up being broken in a big way are still a part of your story. The experiences that hurt like hell and left your heart broken as you tried to pick up the pieces? Well, those are still a part of your story, too.

I started tearing up at the end of my exercise class this morning when my instructor left us with a message of encouragement saying “everything you went through this year made you stronger.” I mean, she was probably talking about exercise, but it hit me hard nonetheless.

I went through some tough stuff this year. What it was doesn’t matter, but it changed me. And I’m far enough removed from it that I can already see how it made me stronger.

It helped me realize how no one else gets to decide my worth, my story, or my heart besides me. I grew this year by learning contentment. By recognizing that you can live a fulfilling life where you aren’t loved by everyone and you don’t need to fill every minute of every day with activities to give your life value. Just being is enough. And if you’re happy with who you are and stick to your own convictions, there’s nothing anyone can say to tear you down.

Knowing all that now, I can definitely say I feel stronger. Did I feel strong in the moment? Absolutely not. But now, after some reflection, I see nothing but strength.

Because those hard moments were also surrounded by joy. They were surrounded by good people with selfless hearts and caring souls. They were surrounded by highlights and happy memories even amidst the days that were tough.

No life is constant sunshine and rainbows. Nobody gets 365 days of only happy memories. But whatever the past 365 days brought you, you survived. You did it! And you’re better because of every hill and all the valleys.

This New Year’s Eve, I challenge you to look back on the photo albums and reach out to your new Facebook friends or the ones who have been there all along. Reminisce on the happy times and the highlights that you’ll look back on for the rest of your life. Have fun doing a photo dump or creating your own 2021 year in review. You deserve it!

As you do so, I also challenge you to remember the moments that you may not have documented. The simple conversations that changed your perspective. The times you let go of what was no longer serving you, even when it hurt. The obstacles you overcame and continue to work through.

Wherever you’re at on your current journey—whether you can see the ways you grew from a bad situation or you feel stuck in a rough spot with no explanation or justification—know that you’re already doing a great job. Being a human can be hard, and here’s the thing, you’re doing it. You’re alive in the middle of a global pandemic and an overwhelming time of uncertainty. And amidst it all, you ended up with great moments of happiness, joy, fulfillment, and peace.

Recognize the good because you know that you made it through the bad. And you also know there’s so much good still left to come. There are so many more memories to be made. So many people you’ll meet that are going to love you recklessly and well. So many more photo albums and Facebook friends.

What a beautiful, reassuring, and inspiring thought.

I wish you all the happiest of New Year’s surrounded by all the people who love you. I wish you positive energy and moments of growth for the coming year and all the years after that. And most of all, I wish you joy. I hope you know contentment and peace and happiness in all the many forms those sentiments can take.

Bring it on, 2022. I truly can’t wait to see what you have in store.

All my love,

ACB


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